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White Cliffs of the Missouri

I have SO many photos that I took as our jet boat idled through the spectacular White Cliffs of the Missouri River.

To begin with, the day seemed to be a perfect photo op with Montana’s well-known Big Sky and a a few white clouds for special effect. Charlie Russell would have loved this scene!

When boat captain Bill Marsik of Missouri Breaks River Co. launched our trip this morning, one of my travel buddies asked about over-crowding on this noted stretch of the Upper Missouri River. After an hour or so on the river he said, gosh, it would be nice to see another boat so we could take pictures of it! Enough said – we darn near owned the river that day and when we finally saw a canoe, we took pictures of it!

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out river locations so, here are some logistical tips if you are a map person – if you are traveling on US Hwy 87 between Fort Benton and Big Sandy, MT, our launch at Coal Banks Landing was about 8 miles south of the highway. The highway passes right through the towns of Loma and Big Sandy. You can get a great meal and a cold beverage in both places. However, we needed to take anything we wanted for the day in coolers. No coffee kiosks along here!

Now that I have a bazillion photos of the White Cliffs, I’m not completely sure which rock is which. Many of them have names and I believe this one is called LeBarge Rock. Some of the names seem obvious because they are quite descriptive.

The angle of the sun was higher now so I lost that pretty background color but the rock formations still look stunning. Our rainy spring was perfect for creating lush green vegetation at the base of this rock and sandstone. Quite a contrast and what a photo op!

The rock along the river is referred to as the white cliffs or white rocks area. It is definitely sandstone. You can rub your hand over it and it feels sandy. As a result, the formations periodically erode and change slightly. Every now and then you’ll pass by some rocks that appear to have separated and fallen off the face of one of the cliffs.

As the Lewis & Clark expedition traveled up the Missouri River, Lewis noted this area in his journals and said “the hills and clifts which we passed today exhibit a most romantic appearance… and in most places nearly perpendicular: they are formed of remarkable white sandstone…The water in the course of time…has trickled down the soft sand clifts and woarn it into a thousand grotesque figures”. I couldn’t have said it better!

The Lewis & Clark expedition came through here in 1805, then back in 1806 on their return trek home. Plains Indian tribes had inhabited the area long before that though and there are still teepee rings and remnants of buffalo drive lines.

A boat trip through the White Cliffs of the Missouri is so much more than a river trip. And, it’s a trip of a lifetime!

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